CHRISTOPHER BREAN MURRAY
I Remember Fairbanks
in his bright mauve blazer. I remember his hands,
the voluminous pocks of his crippled face. I recall
the way he danced at the precipice, a sprig of sweetbrier
in his odoriferous maw. I remember he pawed the barmaid
every time she passed—then he howled at the antler-chandelier.
My memories of Banks are clearer than the waters
of an Alaskan brook. Fairbanks could not cook. Once
he served me ground beef wrapped in a leaf and bathed
in a mysterious whitesauce. Mischievous birds rifled
through the canopy overhead. I was offput by their
knowing laughter. I wanted to hang from a rafter and kick
wildly at Fairbanks, but he was already off on a virulent
mission. His trek was fueled by an obscure superstition—
something about a God of the Corn, or else he hoped
to smother a contagion before it whisked its tremens
through indigenous corpuscles. I imagined him stroking
the muscles of a young laborer—checking his chart
to appear serious, though inside he was delirious about
the genius of his prank. His shoes stank, so he flung them
from the window of a Swiss hotel. His dress was inimical
yet avuncular. He wore the trousers an aspiring punk
might wear. He spoke of the wear and tear, the blear nights,
the caravansary shattered by the lapping tongues of lamplight
infusing gypsy songs with the giddy fragrance of oleander.
His is a jeremiad of love and unreason. He roamed the streets
with treasonous youths spouting perverted yet compelling
truths that somehow tasted of the future. I am the one who
sutured his forehead the morning after his brawl with the mayor.
I am—yes—the land surveyor. What the fight was over
no one knows. They stared at each other in silence for nine
minutes before it came to blows. Fairbanks bit the mayor’s
flaccid nipple. The mayor squealed—fear rippling across his
formidable brow. It was a legendary row. One photo depicts
the blurring trajectory of a fist and the spray of bodily
juices. This picture was not enhanced. The crowd called for
a sacrifice and both men found they were in History’s blind
grip. Somewhere, at that moment, a ship narrowly missed
plunging into the bayonet of a night-masked iceberg. The mayor—
Zbigniew Goldberg—headbutted Fairbanks...to no avail.
A scree of cheers puffed Banks into a hurricane of violence.
He bludgeoned flesh until the courtyard was oppressed by silence.
If you’re going to hire a guitarist for the event,
get Segovia. Not Andrés. The other, younger
Segovia. He’s not related. In fact, he’s hated
by purists for his sloppy, irreverent solos. He wears
bolo ties and snakeskin boots. Still, his fingers
shoot down the frets at lightning speed. He
pursues the essence of a Bach minuet with
a sort of artistic greed. Half of him doesn’t
give a fuck. The other half needs to chase down
the sublime like a frenzied hound pursuing
a terrified fox into a thicket shattered by moonlight.
Once I heard him turn Schubert into a blues
using a penlight for a slide. One couple rose
and left the theater in a huff. Others expressed
gruff criticisms afterwards in the lobby. I really
enjoyed the piece, though I had front row seats
and Segovia was a bit gassy. But that was
a small price to pay. Another time he plucked
a raucous César Franck. Somehow, though
he was playing an unmic-ed acoustic, I heard
the swell of a piercing wave of feedback. It
seemed to be pooling and flowing from the rear
of the auditorium. When it finally ended—his
fingers tripping playfully down a golden staircase
of notes—I demanded more of him. Not because
he had let me down, but because I was drunk and
couldn’t face the blank page of sobriety. After
that night he began to suffer from notoriety. While
he enjoyed it at first, it soon affected his playing.
His fugues lacked staying power, and his arpeggios
were uninspired. He seemed to be mired in the
expectations of the crowd. He tried playing loudly
and matching the notes with his shrill, nicotine-frayed
voice. That was a bad choice, but at least he was
searching. One time, in the middle of a Brahms,
I noticed his hand lurching—it appeared uncontrollably—
up and down the neck. Minutes later he collapsed,
his tear-shaped guitar in splinters. The audience cheered,
and the flash-bulbs strobed their oblivion. Had he
forgotten what age he was living in? After that night
he got wise. He lay low for a while. And he practiced.
Soon he went back on tour playing smaller venues.
His menu was the same: Paganini, Grieg, and Schumann.
And he still dressed like a bluesman. Anyway, he’s
got the fire and I recommend him without reservation.